By Marisa Kakoulas
In Athens, Greece, the Sake Tattoo Crew is an incubator for top tattoo talent — not just respected in the country, but worldwide. One artist from this collective is Kiriakos Balaskas. Tattooing for 8 years after a tough apprenticeship with Sake, Kiriakos developed a style combining abstract expressionism watercolors and graphic art. But I wanted to learn from him how he views his work, and tattoo culture as a whole, so I took him away from organizing the Athens Tattoo Convention, which is May 23-25, for a quick Q&A.
If forced to define your style, how would you describe it? What are the strongest influences on your work?
My tattoo style in general has always been a combination of heavy themes/ lines/ shapes, and naive — almost childish — color details. I’ve always found this invasion of joy into strictness (two sides that equally attract me) very interesting and exciting. As soon as I started experimenting with the watercolor technique, I felt I had finally found the absolute way of expressing this ultimate combination. My pieces mainly include these distinctive elements: a black graphic stencil or sketch, and either a brush or wide, “clean,” kid-style watercolors — usually two colors only. It is hard for me to define it in a sole, strict term as there is no one else in Greece who practises this style, but if forced to define it, I’d use the term my costumers use when they ask for it, “Kiddo.”
Some old school artists believe that “only bold will hold,” and that every tattoo needs a heavy outline to stay strong longer. What is your response to this?
I agree and I myself use total black outlines in the stencil/sketch part. But as far as the watercolors outline is concerned, I feel the lines should create an ephemeral impression — if you take the loose element out of the watercolor, the very substance of it is gone.
Because you are doing something new and innovative with your work, what kind of reactions do you get to it?
The reactions are positive, if not overwhelming. People are interested in trying this new technique or inflowing the style into their tattoos, and their eagerness to experiment with unconventional styles sincerely moves me.
What are some of the greatest lessons you learned in tattooing?
I’ve learned the greatest lessons and values of tattooing from the person who initiated me to this art, Sake. It was a tough apprenticeship by his side that I had to go through in order to become a respected tattoo artist, and one of the greatest lessons he gave me was to pay this respect back to the customers. They will have that piece on them forever, and that is something we always have to keep in mind.
What do you think makes a good tattoo — and what do you think makes a good tattoo artist?
A good tattoo is a tattoo that remains the same over the years, as if it was only done two weeks ago. I consider good artists to be the artists who won’t rest or let themselves go as far as their technique, style and inspiration are concerned.
How have you seen tattoo culture in Greece evolve? How has mainstream culture in Greece adapted to the art’s popularity?
**To read the full article, go to: http://www.needlesandsins.com/2014/05/artist-profile-kiriakos-sake-tattoo-crew.html
By Marisa Kakoulas
A Kansas man who is charged with murder asked the court to either remove or cover up his large neck/throat tattoo — a tattoo of the word MURDER in mirror image (it’s art just for him!) in big shaky block letters. Ok, I’ll let that sink in for a while.
This isn’t a post on bad life choices, however. For me, especially as a lawyer, I’m interested in the issue of justice and what constitutes a “fair trial.” According to the Great Bend Tribune, the attorney of Jeffrey Wade Chapman is asserting that there would be no fair trial if a jury were to see that tattoo (a tattoo that was done over a year before the crime he’s accused of). The Tribune wrote:
According to the motion filed by defense attorney Kurt Kerns, Wichita, Chapman has asked the jail to allow a professional tattoo artist to remove and/or cover up the tattoo across his neck that is a mirror image of the word “murder” in capital letters. The motion notes it is a large tattoo that cannot be easily hidden with clothing.
“Mr. Chapman has secured a licensed tattoo artist from Hays who is willing to go to the jail,” the motion states. “Mr. Chapman’s tattoos are not relevant to any material facts and Mr. Chapman asks for the court to exclude any mention of his tattoos at trial and further to be allowed to cover them up in an appropriate manner. The fact that he has ‘Murder’ tattooed across his neck is irrelevant to the State’s case and extremely prejudicial to Mr. Chapman if introduced at trial or observed by the jury.”
The State replied that they don’t allow tattooists to practice in jails [Kansas Administrative Code 69-15-14 states, "tattoo artists shall not practice at any location other than a licensed facility," which meets specific hygiene standards set by the Kansas Board of Cosmetology.]
And so, today, an agreement was reached that Chapman would wear a turtleneck in court. Problem solved!
But the issue of having prejudicial tattoos on view in a criminal trial has been much more difficult to address when they are facial tattoos — and there are A LOT of gang/criminal/racist facial tattoos out there.
As I wrote about back in 2009 in my Tattoos as Evidence in Criminal Trials post, a Florida judge granted a motion to have the state pay a cosmetologist $150 a day to cover the Neo-Nazi facial tattoos of a man who was facing the death penalty for murder, stating “the tattoos are potentially offensive and could influence a jury’s opinion.” Naturally, the act of tax payer money going to a make-up artist to help a racist accused of murder didn’t sit well with many people. The NY Times had interesting coverage of that case — as well as a description of the cover-up process.
To read the full article, go to: http://www.needlesandsins.com/2014/04/tattoos-at-trial.html
By Marisa Kakoulas
Tattoos above by Andreas “Curly” Moore.
Tons of tattoo news hit the headlines while we were out on vacation, so I figured I’d give y’all a run-down of some of the ones I found most interesting:
First off, I had to giggle over how the fantastic Andreas “Curly” Moore offered his own version of “Palm Sunday” (shown above) last weekend at Lionel’s Tattoo Studio in Oxford. The Oxford Mail quoted Curly saying: “It was Palm Sunday, so we thought for amusement we would do three free palms. The tattoos had no religious meaning, it was just for the sake of beautiful art.” Check more of Curly’s beautiful art here. [He's also featured in Black Tattoo Art 2.]
Then, specifically designed to kill my post-vacation buzz, The NY Times published yet another tattoo essay. It wasn’t because the word “asymptote” was used twice in an article that was not about geometry. It wasn’t because the writer used the word “tat.” Ok, maybe it was that, but it was used in this context: “I felt how much I needed, from him and everyone, a certain kind of response: to feel inspired by the tat, and tell me so.” The “tat” in question was a Latin phrase homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto, translated, “I am human; nothing human is alien to me.” I can see how it would be interesting if the tattoo was just a hook in the article to have a discussion on what that means…but then the writer brings in all the same stale discussions about getting tattooed post-breakup as some form of reclaiming her body, a declaration of selfhood, and the tattooed body as public space in some form — all very true, but nothing new. It also neglects another real truism: no one has to break up with you for you to get a tattoo.
To read the full article, visit: http://www.needlesandsins.com/2014/04/tattoo-news-review-32.html
By Marisa Kakoulas
The discussion of NYC’s gentrification is nothing new, but it still stings every time I learn of another institution of art, music & grit close its door to make way for mega-store or “luxury” anything. One living institution, who has had a profound effect on NYC’s tattoo scene, is documentarian, fine artist and tattoo artist Clayton Patterson. And, as the NY Times reported this weekend, Clayton will be shutting his Outlaw Art Museum and leaving NY’s Lower East Side with his wife Elsa Rensaa, explaining, “There’s nothing left for me here.”
In a time where our own tattoo community feels gentrified — complete with “celebrity” tattooers working in glass cages — it’s understandable why Clayton and Elsa are leaving town and heading for Bad Ischl, in Austria, where, for almost 15 years, he has collaborated with the Wildstyle Tattoo Convention.
Wildstyle is one of the many projects Clayton has worked on for tattoo artists and collectors. In 1986, Clayton and Ari Roussimoff started the Tattoo Society of New York (TSNY), with the assistance of Elsa, and the group was instrumental in working to overturn the NYC tattoo ban in 1997. When asked by Vice, what about the role of TSNY, he explained:
“It was difficult to learn to tattoo in the city, but the TSNY changed much of that. Those interested in art and tattooing gathered at the Society meetings. The whole 1990s New York City new wave came out of the TSNY. The magazines came to the Society meetings. It is through the Society that Debby Ullman, who had worked at Outlaw Biker and Tattoo Review, moved over to Pat Rusians of Pink Coyote Designs, who was looking for an editor to start a new magazine. I introduced her to Jonathan Shaw, and they started, International Tattoo Magazine. At that time there were not that many photographers on the tattoo scene. Early on, there was Charles Gatewood. Then Steve Bonge started taking photos in the mid 70s. He was instrumental in getting photos of tattoos into Biker magazine. He became the lead photographer for International Tattoo.”
To read the rest of this article, visit: http://www.needlesandsins.com/2014/04/clayton-patterson-leaves-nyc.html
By Marisa Kakoulas
So, you can take a minute and read the Gizmodo article first. Or not.
I first asked Anna what she thought were some glaring mistakes in the post. Here’s what she said:
ANNA: By the third sentence of this “article” I knew it was going to be a doozy. The problem with this statement, “That tradition continues today, just with a much smaller chance of infection” is a) it’s incredibly melodramatic and b) it’s just not true. Many (if not most?) traditional tattoo practitioners were acutely aware of the possibility of infection, one of the reasons why we perhaps see suspension mediums in traditional tattoo “ink” recipes like alium juice or even one of my favorite rare ones, human breastmilk, both of which contain natural antibacterial agents. Rest periods for people having undergone tattooing are common cross-culturally (presumably to let the body heal and lessen the chance of infection). And with the rise of “tattoo parties” and so much home-tattooing by amateurs untrained in proper safe practices with bloodborne pathogens, there is a huge risk of all sorts of infections in the contemporary era.
Re: the image of the “Pict” “tattoos”: had the writer just done a tiny bit of searching re: this image, he might have realized this image is a fantasy and does not represent tattoos. Scholars are still not sure if the descriptions of body art on the Picts were tattoos or just body painting (leaning toward the latter), but they definitely were not 16th century French-inspired floral designs in multi-color (they were described as woad-like, which is blueish in color). The image is also not attributed to the source, and I’m guessing when the owner (Yale University) finds out it’s been used without attribution, they will have it pulled. Here are some links to some of my posts on one of the other images from the same book (John White’s equally fantastic Pict images), which mention fantasy and have more elucidation of some of these problems: Image 1 (below), Image 2, and Image 3.
Matt also noted the misinformation on Picts and cited “The Pictish Tattoo: Origins of a Myth” by Richard Dibon-Smith for reference.
As for the “These days, it’s not just sailors and ruffians that get inked” line (and the whole paragraph really), read Matt’s attack on tattoo cliches.
Above: Lars Krutak with one of the last tattooed Kalinga warriors Jaime Alos outside of Tabuk, Philippines.
I’m also grateful for the extensive critique of the article that Lars offered:
LARS: Otzi is not the oldest evidence as this article seems to purport. The oldest is a 7000-year-old male mummy of the Chinchorro culture of South America and this man wears a tattooed mustache on his upper-lip, so the earliest evidence is cosmetic. [Actually, the cited Smithsonian article had several glaring errors and I never cite it - period! - even though I work at the Smithsonian! Dr. Fletcher stated that Otzi is the oldest tattoo evidence, but she is no doubt incorrect and I like mythbusting this oft-stated "fact."]
Gizmodo: The Inuit, for example, have been tattooing themselves in the name of beauty and a peaceful afterlife since at least the 13th century.
LARS – The earliest evidence of tattooing in all of North America is a Palaeo-Eskimo ivory maskette from Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada whose face is completely covered with tattoos and it dates to -3500 BP. This object most likely represents a woman. So the practice is much older than the author presumes. For “beauty” is pretty much horseshit – see my comments below. Much circumpolar tattooing aimed to repel the advances of disease-bearing evil spirits and there were multiple forms of medicinal tattooing to relieve painful rheumatism (a la the Iceman), painful swellings, facial paralysis, and even to increase the production of a woman’s breast milk.
Gizmodo: Similarly, in the the [sic] Cree tribe, men would often tattoo their entire bodies while the women would wear ornate designs running from mid-torso to pelvis as protective wards for a safe pregnancy.
LARS: I have never heard anything about safe pregnancies in relation to Cree tattoo, although I am aware of tattoos in other parts of North America to promote fertility or ensure that the first thing a newborn saw was a thing of beauty (eg, inner thigh tattoo, Inuit region). Indeed, Cree men (Plains Cree, Wood Cree) were tattooed on their torso, but only for war honors. These tattoos had to be earned so only successful warriors would have worn such tattoos. The author makes it sounds like every man had them, but this is simply not true.
To read this full article, go to: http://www.needlesandsins.com/2014/03/tattoo-history-myths-exposed.html
By Marisa Kakoulas
The meteoric media attention to tattooing is making a lot of people, a lot of money. And many of those people don’t have a single tattoo. When tattoo polls make claims like “one in five U.S. adults has at least one tattoo,” that’s a significant market to be tapped.
We are passionate about tattoos. We get excited to view beautiful work and pissed off when the art is denigrated. This passion = $$ in the eyes of those seeking “eyeballs” for their websites, TV shows, magazines, and sales outlets.
Back in October, we talked about tattoo “Like farms.” Those are often the tattoo “fan” pages with the billion “Likes” on Facebook, where you’ll find beautiful tattoos but without any information on the artist, photographer, or collector. The tattoos are used to draw us in and then throw ad links to merch, apps, and services.
The flip side to this is what I see as the “Dislike” hook: tricks like “click-baiting,” with headlines such as “Tattoos are Corny and Degrading,” designed to drag us in, make us angry with asinine writing, and provoke us to comment on the article, defending something that is personal and important to us. It brings more clicks, more time on the site, and more interactivity. Editors and advertisers just love how much we hate it.
Back in my early days of blogging (over 10 years ago), I used to call these articles out, and even comment on them in the hopes of trying to change someone’s mind with, what I believed to be, rational thought. I no longer do that. Because, in the history of the Internet, no one has ever won in a comment war.
To read the rest of this article, visit: http://www.needlesandsins.com/2014/03/never-read-or-post-the-comments.html
By Marisa Kakoulas
As we first posted back in October, the original the NYC Tattoo Convention will be taking place March 7-9, 2014 at the the historic Roseland Ballroom – before this legendary venue closes in April (hence, why the show won’t be taking place as it usually does in May).
And as always, we’re stoked for the show, particularly for its finely curated line-up of tattooers from around the world, including long-time legends, and also traditional hand-tattooing booths. There are some great sideshow performances, and tattoo competitions that really present some stellar work. Plus, the kickass vendors offer badass merch. [Literally, "badass."]
I have been attending the NYC Convention for 13 years, and it has consistently been one of the most electric shows I attend. I’ll be doing a book signing there this year for my latest monster, “Black Tattoo Art II.” Just follow the loud maniacal laugh when you get to the convention and you’ll find me.
Read the full article here: http://www.needlesandsins.com/2014/02/nyc-tattoo-convention-march-7-9.html
Hand-poked tattoos are experiencing a Renaissance, with stellar professional tattooers reviving the ancient methods of body adornment. Employing techniques passed down from generations, much of hand tattooing comes with strict tradition and sacred rituals. The question is should it come in a box?
When SF tattooist Shannon Archuleta sent me the link to the Stick & Poke Tattoo Kit, we both said that our initial reaction was Oooh nooo. Then there’s the rationalization reaction: people have always been sticking and poking themselves, so they might as well be safe. This rationalization is how the kit is touted.
However, upon further reading of the site — particularly the “Open letter to the precious tattoo artist” on the blog portion — the disdain for the craft, the hygiene 101 info and bad advice on what to do with the dirty needles, and also the goal of putting the kits in stores around the world, well, it made Shannon and I revert to our original reaction: this is not a good thing.
To read more of this article, go to: http://www.needlesandsins.com/2014/01/stick-and-poke-tattoo-kits.html
By Marisa Kakoulas
Having a Greek father who once told me that tattoos would never be accepted in the motherland, it’s with true pleasure (and a bit of “I told ya so“) to see a tattoo publication rise to international popularity, which happens to come out of Greece.
HEARTBEATINK is an online tattoo magazine in English and Greek with excellent photography and videos, and thoughtful interviews with tattooists, musicians, and collectors. I’m honored to be among those collectors interviewed by the magazine’s most excellent editor Ino Mei. Our Q &A was just posted today.
I first met Ino in person at the last NYC Tattoo Convention, where she beautifully captured the scene in her convention coverage for her mag. Then we got to hang at the London Tattoo Convention in September, for which she also took wonderful images and video. There, we found a moment to chat about a possible “tattoo gene,” the comparisons between tattooing & plastic surgery, tattoo law, and what happened when my dad did find out I was heavily tattooed (and more). It was a fun talk. Here’s a bit from it:
How did you get into tattoos?
Me: Ed Hardy once told me in an interview that he believes that there could be a “tattoo gene.” It made a lot of sense to me because, when you ask somebody who has a visceral response to tattooing — who sees tattooing and has an actual physical reaction and is attracted to it — that is something that’s ingrained; people can think back and say, “Well, I’ve always felt that way”. I remember when I was very young, looking at my mother’s National Geographic magazines and coming across tattooed tribal women, and I was instantly thinking that this is really beautiful, mysterious and bad-ass. Of course, this is an ideal way of looking at it. really, if I would be honest with myself, it is because I liked tattooed boys when I was teenager (laughs).
HEARTBEATINK: Where you then tattooed when you were a teenager?
I was a nerdy teenager, did good in school, and my parents were very conservative. I didn’t run around a lot. So when I found myself at tattoo shops at a young age, it held a kind of magic for me. Keep in mind that getting a tattoo was illegal back then, until 1997, in New York, so it was more secretive. You had to know where to go and ring the right buzzer. It was like a clandestine operation. However, when you were “inside”, it wasn’t what you’d expect, like a biker shop. At least in my experience, when I was first exposed to it, I was seeing really beautiful custom tattooing. There were art books rather than trendy flash for inspiration. I respected it so much that I felt I really wanted to wait until a had the right idea and do it at the right time. So, I didn’t get tattooed until I was in my early twenties. Actually, I got my first tattoo during the early weeks of law school. I felt I didn’t fit it, and was afraid that I’d become something that I wasn’t. I love the study of law, but I’ve never been super competitive and I’ve never felt that I had to be above somebody else to be better. It was really at that time that I started thinking about art and tattooing a lot in terms of individuation.
HEARTBEATINK: That sounds very mature…
I was a very mature kid (laughs). Now, I’m regressing. I’m like a thirteen-year-old boy (laughs). Back then, I was like a forty year old women (laughs).
Read more of this article here: http://www.needlesandsins.com/2014/01/my-chat-with-greeces-heartbeat-ink.html
By Marisa Kakoulas
Photo by Edgar Hoill.
As a happy update to our post on the French Health Ministry’s attempted ban of most colored inks, the association of professional tattooers in France, Tatouage & Partage, received a letter from health officials stating that the proposed ban was “malentendu” — a misunderstanding. You can find a copy of the letter here.
According to the AFP:
“The ban was “misinterpreted” by the government offices in charge of implementing it, he said, expressing relief on behalf of France’s 3,500 to 4,000 professional tattoo artists. […]
The tattoo artists’ association said the problem was one of the four tables printed in the government decree announcing the ban, which listed the dyes allowed in cosmetic products…”
To read the rest of this article, go to: http://www.needlesandsins.com/2013/12/color-tattoo-saved-in-france.html
By Marisa Kakoulas
In The Guardian today is feature called “Painted Ladies: Why women get tattoos.” Normally, I find these types of articles banal, or even cringe worthy, for perpetuating cliches or not offering a broad spectrum of experience from our community. And so I was happily surprised to find many different voices of tattooed women in this article.
While there need not be any great miraculous reason to get tattooed, tattoos do come with a story, from an impulse to get a quick piece of historic flash to a full body project. I found the profiles of these women to be really interesting, and they made me think on the commonaIities and differences of our experiences with tattoos.
I particularly loved reading about Juanita Carberry, a merchant navy steward, who died in July at age 88. Here’s a bit from her story:
“The daughter of a renegade Irish peer, Carberry lived an extraordinarily full life. Her childhood in Kenya was difficult: her mother, a well-known aviator, died when she was three, and Carberry was often beaten by her governess. As a teenager, she was a key witness in a celebrated murder case, the 1941 shooting of the 22nd Earl of Erroll, and at 17 she joined the first aid nursing yeomanry in the Women’s Territorials during the second world war. In 1946, Carberry became one of a handful of women to join the merchant navy, remaining for 17 years. It was during this period, says photographer Christina Theisen, that she started acquiring tattoos. Her first was a small spider on the sole of her foot; it didn’t hurt, Theisen recalls Carberry saying, because the skin on her feet was so tough from walking barefoot as a child.”
Read more here.
It is the work of Christina Theisen and Eleni Stefanou that really makes this piece so engaging. Theisen and Stefanou are behind womenwithtattoos.co.uk, a photo and film endeavor that pays respect to all tattooed women. They offer this on their work: “Our project seeks to capture the personal and the individual, embracing each woman and her tattoos as one, rather than isolating or magnifying the inked parts of her body. At the same time, by using natural environments and the context of urban Western culture, we intentionally move away from the sexualised glamour model aesthetic that dominates tattoo magazines and popular culture.”
Two words: Hell. Yeah.
My regret is that I wasn’t aware of the project when it first rolled out. I will continue to follow Theisen and Stefanou’s work, and I hope that more media outlets also follow their lead in telling compelling stories without the usual pop culture hype and flash so prevalent today.
By Marisa Kakoulas
A beautifully curated and styled collection of entomology-based artwork from around the world, Antennae of Inspiration: The Insect Art Project is yet another wonderful accomplishment of Jinxi Boo Caddel and her Out of Step Books. The cover artwork alone, by Jeff Gogue, is a perfect example of the stunning works on the pages inside. In addition to images of tattoos, paintings, drawings, photography and other mediums, there are also engaging stories behind many of the works.
Antennae of Inspiration is part of Out of Step’s Inspiration Art Project Series: beautiful hardcover publications designed to do exactly what the name says — inspire exciting interpretations of particular themes by presenting an ensemble of art in different mediums focused on those themes. This volume is all about bug art. Here’s more about it from Jinxi:
“With a multitude of mediums included, our insect, snail, and arachnid friends are colorfully interpreted in over 1,650 different ways by 848 unique and talented artisans. This collective project brings together an artistic treasure trove of inspirational work to celebrate the wondrous world of compound eyes, aerodynamic wings, and versatile antennae. Antennae of Inspiration is a full color, hardback, coffee-table style, 480-page beauty of a book.”
You can purchase the book online for $79.95. Such a compilation is worth so much more. Gorgeous examples of what you’ll find in the book are below.
What is also particularly excellent is that a percentage of the proceeds of all book sales through Jinxi’s Out of Step Books goes to Donorschoose.org in an effort to keep arts education alive and thriving. There are also art prints for purchase, and all the proceeds from those sales go to Donorschoose.org.
**Jinxi’s books are also available at: www.getTAM.com.
By Marisa Kakoulas
From today through December 23 (or until they run out because I don’t have many left), my new Black Tattoo Art 2 will be on sale for $140 (including free shipping in the US); theBlack & Grey Tattoo box set is on sale for $300 (originally $399); and the individual books of the set are $120 each.
You can order via Paypal on the Needles & Sins online store or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Maris Kakoulas
Reblogged from: www.needlesandsins.com
On Monday – P.Ink Day – a group of truly exceptional tattooers, exceptional in their art and in their spirit, dedicated their time to transform mastectomy scars of kickass women into beautiful life-affirming creations. Just taking a look at Gigi Stoll’s photos of what went down at Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn that day, offers a glimpse into just how powerful and magical tattooing can be.
As I’ve posted here before, P.Ink or Personal Ink Project is an incredible resource that offers tattoo inspiration, ideas and info for breast cancer survivors. It also is a place where these women can research and perhaps even connect with skilled artists who can transform mastectomy scars into beautiful works of art. On Monday, P.Ink brought artists and survivors together in person, and picked up the tab via an Indiegogo campaign – that still needs help with funding.
To learn more about P.Ink and the transformation of mastectomy scars from the perspective of the tattoo artist and the client, check this HuffPo video featuring P.Ink’s founder Noel Franus, artist Joy Rumore and Megan Hartman, whom Joy tattooed on Monday (tattoo shown above). Joy also blogged about her experience, which is a great read.
For all the inspiration and beauty, thank you, P.Ink and the artists who made it all possible: Stephanie Tamez, Virginia Elwood, Ashley Love, Michelle Tarantelli, Roxx,Shannon Purvis Barron, Nikki Lugo, Miranda Lorberer, Jen Carmean, and Joy Rumore.
Check out TAM for more awesome interviews: